Recognition and HOPE!

By Lori Hartwell

UKRO's Ken Kleinberg (far left) and Dr. Vito Campese (far right) with the evening's honorees Inderbir S. Gill, M.D., Lori Hartwell and Rodney Hanners (left to right)

It’s always wonderful to be recognized, especially among people who are working diligently to bring hope to others, in this case, to people with kidney disease! Read on for a dose hope…

It was a tremendous honor for me to receive the Spirit of Life award from the University Kidney Research Organization (UKRO) on June 12 in Los Angeles. I’m so grateful to family, friends, and colleagues who have supported me in my journey to fulfill my mission of helping my peers. And I would not be here if it wasn’t for the wonderful knowledge and care of doctors, innovators, and healthcare professionals.

Lori Hartwell and USC President Carol Folt

The award fundraising event was held at the Beverly Hilton’s outdoor garden, a beautiful setting, and one for which I was very grateful because I am very afraid of COVID! I was so impressed by the dynamism of University of Southern California’s (USC) President Dr. Carol Folt, who spoke at the event with obvious pride in the work being done at UKRO and inspired the whole audience. She was a rock star on the stage. Philip Palmer, a kidney donor and long-time friend of Renal Support Network, did a great job as MC.

Lori Hartwell and Living Kidney Donor and ABC News Anchor Phillip Palmer (photo by Karol Franks)

My fellow honorees were Rodney Hanners, CEO of Keck Medicine of USC Research and President of CEO of USC Health System (honored for his extraordinary leadership); and Inderbil S. Gil, MD who is with the USC institute of Urology Associates Dean of Clinical Innovation (honored as Extraordinary Physician and Medical Innovator). To be in their company was just amazing for me! They are wonderful individuals who care deeply about patients. And these leaders have a message for us: Hope is on the way!

USC’s Keck School of Medicine partners with UKRO to fund the USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center with their primary focus as the synthetic kidney project. The project’s leaders are uniquely positioned to take on this challenge. Andrew McMahon, Ph.D., is one of the world’s leading authorities in stem cell research and commands an encyclopedic knowledge of kidney development. Zhongwei Li, Ph.D., specializes in creating the early building blocks of the kidney through the use of pluripotent stem cells.

Lori Hartwell with friends and family who attended UKRO’s Under the Stars Gala

My motto is “always stay alive until the next miracle happens”, and if I ever need another kidney what I heard that night gave me hope. I want to share it with all of my peers that now rely on a machine to live or have kidneys that are puttering out or having problems: The innovators and scientists are concentrating all their efforts and resources in the development of a synthetic transplantable kidney, made from stem cells. They are working to create the building blocks for assembling a synthetic kidney and have made some progress in building a mini kidney! Imagine a world without requiring dialysis! A world where a transplant would be welcomed into its new body and would not need anti-rejection medication!

There are lots of innovators behind the scenes, professionals and researchers who are determined to find answers.  UKRO is committed to improving treatment of kidney disease and replacing dialysis. Their mission statement says, “In 10 years, we envision a time when kidney diseases are understood, and new and novel treatments increase quality of life and lifespan for patients.” Watch the video announcing their determination here.

One of UKRO’s founders is a long-time friend of mine and kidney transplant recipient, Kenneth Kleinberg. It’s so wonderful to see what he’s doing to help his peers. We are kindred souls. UKRO’s other co-founder is his nephrologist! You can read about them here. I also ran into many nephrologists that knew me from the 1990s when I was a sales rep for dialysis medical products!

Lori Hartwell and Lesley Holden (photo by UKRO)

What an evening. I was so honored to have Lesley Holden, the nurse, who cared for me when I was younger and still volunteers today with the Prom and RSN introduce me. While enjoying the company of family, friends, colleagues, and medical professionals who are devoted to helping people who have kidney disease, being recognized for the truly rewarding work I do to help my peers cope and thrive with kidney disease, I heard some great news about treatment research and innovation! Hang on to hope!


Lori-Hartwell-foudner-president-kidney-talk-host-authorLori Hartwell is the Founder and President of Renal Support Network (RSN) and the host of KidneyTalk™ Podcast Radio. Lori was diagnosed with kidney disease at the age of two. She survived 50+ surgeries and 13 years of dialysis, and is now living with her fourth kidney transplant.  In 1993 she founded RSN to instill “health, happiness and hope” into the lives of those affected by chronic kidney disease. Lori is also the author of the inspirational book Chronically Happy: Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness and is a four-time kidney transplant recipient.


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